“Maisie, honey?” I said, taking a cautious step toward her. Her eyes stayed on her task; her mouth continued to hum. “What are you doing?”
“Adam?” Rhea called, her voice panicked.
“Adam isn’t invited to this party,” Maisie said in a voice that chilled me to my marrow. If monotone can sound evil, this did. “He’s been a bad boy.”
My heart thumped like a fist against a door. “What did you do to him?”
The brush went back and forth, back and forth. “He needed to be punished for touching what belongs to another,” she said in the same dead tone. “It’s part of the plan.”
My mouth went dry with fear. “If you hurt him, I’ll—”
“Shh,” she said. “It’s the plan.” Back. Forth. Back. Forth. Faster now, harder. “He said I had to follow the plan.”
“Who did?” But I already knew.
“He who kills to get gain.”
“Maisie? Look at me.” Her eyes stayed glued to the canvas. Now her restless side-to-side brushstrokes were harder, bowing the canvas in on itself. “Did you kill Orpheus and Tanith?”
The brush stilled. Her breathing went shallow until she was panting. Her body began rocking back and forth now. She lifted the brush like a dagger. With a hard downward stroke, she stabbed the brush into the female figure flying through the night sky. Her arm reared back and stabbed again, again, again. Each thrust stronger than the last until, finally, the brush broke through the canvas with a loud rip.
But still, the hand stabbed. Still, my twin rocked. Still, she panted like an animal.
I leapt at her, grabbing her wrist in a punishing grip and forcing her to stop. “Stop,” I said, my voice cracking. “Please stop, Maisie.”
As she fought me, my sister looked up at me with dark, haunted eyes. When she spoke, her voice was no longer her own. It was deeper, echoed, sinister. “Maisie’s not here anymore.”
Magic slammed through the room. It sizzled past my skin, followed by a hot wind. Maisie’s body collapsed in my arms like someone had flipped her off switch.
I looked up, trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Rhea stood just on the other side of the canvas. She rubbed her hands together, as if to release excess energy. Her expression was as solemn as a dirge.
“Thanks,” I said quietly.
I was so scared I wanted to vomit. Scared for Maisie. Scared for Adam. Scared for all of us. Whatever magic Cain had woven around my sister’s fragile mind was blacker than midnight. I could feel it on her skin. Smell it in the sour sweat coating her body. Hear it echoing in the words she’d spoken.
I looked up and met Giguhl’s eyes over Maisie’s head. He looked as terrified as I felt. “Find Adam. He’s probably close.”
While Giguhl started stalking the room, I juggled Maisie’s weight in my arms. “How long will she be out?” I asked Rhea.
“She’ll sleep until I release the spell. But we have to hurry. She’ll enter the Liminal soon,” she said, her tone brisk and efficient. “Let’s find my nephew.”
I gently laid Maisie’s body on the floor. She didn’t stir, but underneath her lids, her pupils moved restlessly like she was dreaming.
From across the room, Giguhl cursed. “Guys! Something’s behind this door.” He pointed to a wooden panel set into the far wall. Another large canvas partially blocked the door, but I knew it was just a supply closet. One large enough to hide a body.
The thought made the blood in my veins freeze into ice floes. But if Giguhl had heard something moving, then that meant there was a chance Adam was alive.
“Open it,” I said.
Gods, please let him be okay.
“Adam?” he called. He pushed the canvas out of the way, tearing it in the process. Giguhl threw the door open. Light flooded the closet. The beam of light illuminated Adam’s back. He didn’t move.
“No!” I screamed, running so fast the breeze blew my hair back. “Adam!”
Just like in Maisie’s painting, Adam’s hands were bound to a low-hanging rafter. His head hung down, the muscles of his neck straining. The upper half of his chiton drooped around his waist, exposing his broad back. Red slashes ravaged his skin.
“Giguhl, help me get him down.”
I wrapped my arms around Adam’s midsection, easing his weight off the floor. The demon slashed the ropes binding his wrists. The mancy’s body collapsed into my arms. I lowered him carefully to the floor, laying him on his side to prevent hurting the wounds on his back. He lay still with his eyes closed.
Rhea rushed forward, her face pale. She set the bag she’d filled with supplies next to us. Despite her obvious fear for her nephew, her movements were economical and swift. She removed a vial from the bag, popped the cork, and waved it under his nose. The ammonia scent of hartshorn filled the small room.
Adam’s head turned away from the vial, trying to escape the strong smell. I held him still so he couldn’t roll over and fall on his back wounds.
“Adam?” Rhea said, bending over his face. His eyelids fluttered and his mouth worked to make sound. Then, like someone had poked him with a cattle prod, he reared up with a gasp. His eyes were wide and he looked around like he didn’t recognize us. Then his eyes shifted into focus and he grabbed my arms. “Sabina, something’s wrong with Maisie. I think she—” He swallowed hard. When he spoke again his voice was hoarse with emotion. “I think she killed Orpheus.”
“Shh. It’s okay. We know.” I untied the brass bindings on his wrists while Giguhl went to work on his ankles. “Tell us what happened.”
He ignored my question and looked around wildly. “Where is she?”
“She’s contained,” Rhea said, relief making her voice tremor. “Where are you hurt?”
He grimaced. “My back is on fire, but otherwise I’m okay.”
“Turn around so I can apply a salve,” she commanded, her tone implying that no arguments would be tolerated. “And you can tell us how this happened.”
He did as instructed. I had to stifle a curse when I saw his back again. Now that my vision wasn’t blurred by fear, I noticed the bite marks mixed in with whip gashes. My stomach turned. It must have been agony for him. Not just the physical pain, but also the confusion and the fear as his best friend turned on him. Again.
Rhea made quick work of finding the appropriate salve to spread over the wounds. She used her fingers to spread the grease over each individual cut and bite. Adam’s back muscles went rock hard and sweat bloomed on his shoulders. But he didn’t complain. Instead, he spoke slowly, reliving the nightmare for our benefit.